This one’s hard to believe, but it’s true: The Nationals today begin their final road trip of the season.
With their first and only trek to Florida to face the Rays and Marlins, the Nats are wrapping up the most difficult part of their shortened schedule from a health-and-safety standpoint. They’ve managed to travel to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Atlanta so far and avoid any positive coronavirus tests. Now they finally venture south to the Sunshine State.
The Nationals were supposed to be in Florida early in the season during their first scheduled road trip, but those plans were called off when the Marlins experienced their coronavirus outbreak, postponing the entire series.
The teams made up one of the postponed games during an Aug. 22 doubleheader at Nationals Park, with Miami serving as the home team. Now they’ll make up the other two with two more doubleheaders Friday and Sunday at Marlins Park.
First up, the Nats head to St. Petersburg, Fla., for a two-game series against a Rays club they swept here last week.
One of those games saw Aníbal Sánchez author one of his best starts of the season, the veteran right-hander carrying a shutout into the sixth before giving up three runs in a 5-3 victory. It was an important step in the right direction for the struggling Sánchez, who tonight gets a chance to face the same Tampa Bay lineup and duplicate his efforts.
Austin Voth is set to start Wednesday afternoon’s finale, the 28-year-old still seeking his first win in nine tries this season. Of course, to earn a win a starter must complete five innings, something Voth hasn’t done in any of his last six outings.
An exhausted Nationals bullpen should be a bit rested after Monday’s off-day. Their bench will have another new face: Jake Noll, who was called up from the alternate training site in Fredericksburg when Brock Holt was placed on the paternity leave list.
Holt, whose wife has been due to give birth in suburban Boston, figures to be away from the team for the series and then rejoin the Nats in Miami on Friday. He’s been a rare bright spot on a roster that has been through constant change over the last seven weeks.
Once he plays, Noll will become the 41st different player to appear for the Nationals this season. That’s an awfully large number, considering they’ve played only 45 games so far in 2020. The 2019 Nats used 50 players in total, 35 of those through their first 45 games. (And those first 45 games included plenty of roster churn, you’ll recall.)
Noll was the last healthy member of the Nationals’ 40-man roster to join the big league roster this season. Any other additions they make before season’s end will have to come from non-roster players training at the alternate site in Fredericksburg and will require a corresponding move to create an opening on the 40-man roster.